Home > Happy Holidays Fun, The Monday Musings Column > holiday humour as strange things happen in the elevator

holiday humour as strange things happen in the elevator

The Cucumber they called it, mostly because of its green sheen, although he abhorred such nicknames and would only refer to it by its street address. The new building, for the moment the tallest in the city, had been visible on and off for some time as he drove into the city. He thought the design was a travesty, but a the job of running it was a job and he had accepted, although he had some concerns about why the vacancy had come up so soon after the original appointee, a well-respected industry figure, had apparently stepped down just days before the opening. Why no-one knew for the lady in question wasn’t responding to calls or emails. Under the circumstances he pondered on the wisdom of starting a new job on Friday the 13th, but one of the best jobs he had ever had begun on the 1st of April so he thought it was worth the chance.

It was nearly lunchtime when he had finished all of the introductions and so he put off the offer of a mini tour until he had eaten. “The restaurant on the 66th floor is the only place open yet unless you want to go down the road somewhere” his right hand lady suggested. He opted for the in-house option; “at least the sun will be shining up there he said and they headed for the lifts of which there were fifteen arranged in a semi-circle. The panel showed several approaching, but number 13 arrived first and he strode towards it, putting his hand on the door to allow his companion to enter first. “Not number 13” she said, “and certainly not today”. “See you up top then” he replied cheerfully, stepping into the lift and hitting the buttons. The doors closed and he felt his ears pop as the lift ascended, but there was surprisingly little feeling of motion despite the numbers rushing across the panel.

The doors opened onto darkness and he stepped from the lift into a wasteland worthy of a Terminator movie; he was, where? He turned back, but there was no sign of what he had just stepped out of. Around him was desolation. Darkness covered the land from horizon to horizon and there were fires in the distance, their red glows lighting the underside of the underside of what seemed to be solid cloud, but there was no sound; nothing at all. A large girder lay on the ground beside him and he sat on it to think. He patted his pockets and found his mobile phone, but where the signal strength indicator should have been it showed “Searching”. As he slipped the ‘phone back into his pocket a movement caught his eye and he stood, staring in disbelief as three familiar shapes appeared from behind a pile of debris. “You will stand still!” commanded a metallic voice. They were not quite the Daleks he knew from TV in any of their various incarnations, but Daleks they clearly were. He stepped backwards and fell over the girder that he had been sitting on. Immediately there was a hiss and a crackle in the air above him and he began to scramble for better cover.

A hand grabbed him and he heard his name as he was pulled into a hole in the ground. Other hands reached past him and he heard the sound of a grating being pulled into place. There were three of them and they appeared human, but in the unlit passageway he could not be sure. One was certainly female from the voice, but he was hustled along in silence until they came to a chamber. There a door was closed behind him and the space was suddenly lit. The female he recognised immediately as Hillary, his immediate predecessor, but the two men with her he didn’t know although their tattered overalls bore the name of the lift company from whose product he had emerged into this nightmare place.

Hillary spoke urgently; “Long stories later. Just tell us which lift you used and which floors you went from and to?” Her once smart business suit jacket was as tattered as the overall of the lift engineers and she had augmented it with some trousers of a strange design and cut that he vaguely recognised. They knew each other fairly well professionally having shared a platform more than once, but her normal gloss was gone. “Lift 13, lower ground to floor 66” He told her and she exchanged nods with the lift engineers. “I’m Tony, he’s Eric” said one of them. “There are seven of us all together; us three and four guys from one of the furniture teams. We all did the same trip as you, but on three separate days. Now let’s get next door into our base and we’ll tell you more”. The one called Eric opened a panel to reveal a crawl through and, once the others had entered, he followed closing the panel behind them.

They crawled through for about ten metres and emerged into another space that looked remarkably like a plant room, although he could recognise none of the equipment and none of it appeared to be working. Various items had been pressed into service to form makeshift tables and chairs and two men rose to greet them. “This is TCB” said Hillary, “He’s one of us. Cyril and Lewis” she said pointing in turn to the two men who nodded. Lewis spoke; “Bob is manning the periscope and Terry has gone for food. Should be back any minute” he said. With that noises to one side were heard and another man joined them carrying two sacks which he placed on the table and from which an assortment of receptacles were produced and set out. “271 will be along in a while” he said, adding, “Dig in” and taking his place at the table.

Hillary took TCB’s arm and led him to the table. “You won’t recognise half of this stuff, but take it on trust that it tastes OK and it’ll keep you going. I’ll explain a little as we eat”. The food and drink were welcome although he had no real clue what he was eating for whilst some tastes were familiar, the shapes, colours and textures were not. Hillary began her story; “We are in some sort of parallel universe. Geographically we are where the Cucumber is in our world, but on a level around the 66th floor and we are in a layer of suspended debris with the real planet around 800 feet below us. Up above us is another layer where the current inhabitants live, but they have evolved into a very different body form to us. Down here there is another race, very much like us, but one that is dying out and 271 is one of them. They are all known by numbers and they call themselves the Technicians because they are the survivors of the people that used to build and maintain things. They built the Daleks you saw; only they call them Enforcers. This world is about 600 to 800 years ahead of ours, but here’s 271 and I’ll let him explain in a minute. For now the thing is to get us back to our 2013. We think that we’ve worked out how to do it, but we need another day or two and then a window when we can be sure that the Daleks are out of the way.”

The sounds of another panel being opened behind him had stopped and he turned to find himself facing an extra from the original Star Trek series. “Apparently you people are familiar with our uniform “ said the newcomer as Hillary whispered “I forgot to tell you not to laugh”, raising her voice to introduce them “271 this is TCB, a colleague of mine from our world”. 271 gave the all too familiar split finger salute which TCB returned. 271 asked them to gather around; “Any time from tomorrow I can arrange the diversion of the Enforcers and that should give you about thirty of your minutes. Will that be sufficient for you to access the portal?”

“If the scanner works, yes it should” replied Eric, “but we won’t know if it works until we connect it”.

Looking at TCB he continued; “We need to access the lift control override and have been trying to put together a scanner to find the right channel. If that works we should be able to recall the elevator and get back to our side”

“But how do you know where it is? I couldn’t see it and I’d just got out of it” replied TCB.

“Well you can’t see it, but you can touch it. I don’t know why or how, but we know how to find it and we’re pretty sure that our device will work. It’s just a shame that we lost our pass card when the Daleks jumped us”.

“What like this?” asked TCB, pulling a slim card from his pocket.

“He’s got a key!” they almost chorused. Eric took it from him and examined it. “What privileges have you got?” he asked.

“24/7/365 of course; I run the place” said TCB.

“Then we can go now” said Eric

“No!” cut in 271, “you have to wait until we can divert the Enforcers and that will have to be tomorrow. It is all planned and I will go now to set things in motion, so prepare yourselves and I will return shortly with some others to see you safely away”.

With that he left and the others began to plan their exit. 271 was soon back to announce that four of his colleagues would join them the next day to assist getting them away and to help watch for Enforcer activity. A diversion was planned that would draw the Enforcer patrols some distance away and that should give plenty of time to locate and access the portal. With all of the plans made 271 said that he would be staying with them until it was time to leave, so Hillary asked if he would tell TCB the story that he had told them others.

“We were a farming community” he told them “living off the land and the rivers until about 750 of your years ago, but then we had the Industrialisation. In a very short time we had machinery and power beyond the imagination of two generations before. Our population expanded, but land to grow food was precious and so we established communities in small pockets. At first things were easy as there were so many deaths in the places where we were making things that there was a balance in the population until there came a time when a group who called themselves the Extension of Life Foundation, or ELF. Our laws then were simple; we only had ten that were the custody of the Lawmakers, and the ELFs argued that killing people you employed in the course of their work was no different to any other sort of killing. The original Enforcers were a group who enforced the ten laws and they enacted any penalty under the law. When someone was found guilty beyond doubt of having killed another the Enforcers would in turn kill them, but with the agreement that killing the people who worked for you also counted there was too much work and so the mechanical Enforcers were created. That also got around the moral dilemma of those of us who were Enforcers having killing people, albeit under the law”.

“But were people not able to be defended against accusation?” asked TCB

“There was no need, for the law was that you were innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt, and if accused you could rely on the Legalists having to prove their case. If you were innocent they would not accuse you and if you were guilty they had to prove that.  The Legalists were those who did the accusing and there were some who thought that the accused should have a Legalist to speak on their behalf, but they were very expensive people and few could afford to employ one. In any case, to do so would be thought that the accused probably was guilty and was just trying to evade justice so it was never done”. He went on; “Deaths and injuries in the Industrial centres reduced quickly, and the population began to grow, so to accommodate everyone in small areas we built upwards, but the crowding everywhere caused all sorts of accidents and here the guilt was almost always with the injured individual, for their own stupidity and carelessness was the cause. As a result they were, if not already dead, put to death by the Enforcers. It was a time of great change and the ELFs began to struggle with the Legalists for the latter had found that if they had some of their number elected as Lawmakers then they could change the laws. In just ten years they introduced many thousands of new laws and whereas the original ten laws had been short and clear the new ones were impossible to understand for anyone other than a Legalist. The ELFs could not function and the Enforcers were redundant. Although they were just machines the Enforcers had developed an artificial intelligence that made them self-sufficient and there came a point where they rebelled against the Legalists and a great war was fought. The Legalists tried to enforce their own laws, but they were no match for the relentless Enforcers and they were wiped out. To broker peace the ELFs reverted to the original ten laws, but they began a programme of eliminating the opportunity for people to kill or maim themselves. The ultimate way, which was achieved, was to stop people moving at all; they would just stay in one place in their cube from where they would do everything. As a result, over several generations, they have evolved into beings with just vestigial legs for they don’t move at all. They live in a small cube and everything comes to them through automatic systems; they have a screen and controls to communicate with others at work or socially so don’t need to go anywhere and, as many accidents happen at home, they don’t need to move from the one position”.

“But how do they breed?” asked TCB.

“They are selected according to their talents and paired accordingly, but they do not physically meet. The necessary fluids are extricated and implanted in couples licenced to breed. All females live in breeding chambers and the young are removed through automatic systems to be educated and allocated accommodation in which they are nurtured until they become adults”.

“So how come you people have not evolved that way?”

“We Technicians had always been independent and resisted the ELFs. In the short war between the Enforcers and the Legalists this level was created from the devastation and it is a very unsafe area so the ELFs created their new world above it. Some Technicians sided with the ELFs and helped them to create this new world, but found themselves trapped there and they have evolved like the others, confined in their cubes, but most of us elected to remain here and we have made our homes in this world living off what we can salvage and create. We share this level with the Enforcers, but both of us are dying out and have maybe another two or three generations left before we are extinct”.

“So what happens then?”

“When we are gone we are gone, but we hold out hopes that the new world will itself crumble because the systems cannot go on untended forever and the only source of help is us. The upper world will not admit it, but they know that it is true. They failed to see the consequences of their actions in terms of evolution and now they are trapped in their safe world, only it is no longer safe because no-one can move. Even if they could get out of their cubes there is nowhere for any of them to go, but sooner or later their life support systems will fail. In fact it may well have started already”.

“It all sounds so bleak, but there are things that have happened in our world that are similar; the rise of safety concerns, having lawyers in politics introducing thousands of new laws to keep them rich, but we have gone soft on other things”.

“We see this.” Replied 271, “Your world is visible to some of us from time to time and yours is not the only other world; there are at least four all existing in the same space, but mostly unaware of each other. However, some people in each world are capable of seeing the others, even if they don’t realise what they are seeing.”

That must be where we got the Star Trek uniforms and the Daleks from thought TCB. “So how many of you are there?” he asked.

“Less than 500 now” 271 told him.

TCB thought for a moment then offered “We could get you out into our world; you could live amongst us. There must be a way to integrate you and if we have the portal working…”.

He stopped as he saw 271 shaking his head. “We could not live in your primitive society, always at war somewhere,” he said, “at least not at the time you are in now. Perhaps if we survive long enough for you to come to your senses and get a grip on your lives.” He smiled, “Perhaps we should send you our enforcers?”

There seemed little answer to that and the party settled down after another meal to rest. Hillary and TCB agreed that they should head for one of the floors in the twenties when they got into the elevator as these were still unoccupied and they could do something about their appearance from there before emerging into the real world to face questions. The next day they made their way through into the first chamber and waited. The other Technicians had joined them and one had a small box in his hand that he kept glancing at. Suddenly he said “Let’s go” and the party made their way out into the strange landscape of the middle level. Eric felt carefully around for a few moments as the rest of the group looked anxiously around them, then a familiar chime of a bell caught their attention. Turning they saw, seemingly in the midst of nowhere was an open lift. “Go!” urged 271 and the seven filed quickly into the lift, Eric punching 22 into the panel. As the lift doors closed they saw 271 and his companions melting away.

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